Wednesday, May 8, 2013

GPUSC Chair Denise Delmar: We're Finished

A happy group of people celebrated with a glass of wine at Chair Denise Delmar's home last evening. After three and a half long and eventful years the work of the General Plan Update Steering Committee, tasked with bringing Sierra Madre's General Plan up to date and ready to serve as the one essential roadmap to everything in our community, is finally done.

There were many events along the way, some inspiring and some frankly bizarre (Nancy Walsh's infamous "take you out" speech being perhaps the most out there - click here), but that is all behind them now. Their work is finished and it moves on to the Planning Commission next for their review. And after that a final round with the City Council.

I spoke with Denise last evening and she told me about some of the things that we as residents should look for over the next year or so. The actual updated General Plan has been handed over to City Staff. It is also available on-line. It will not go to the Planning Commission until the end of the summer, which Denise felt was a long time. The ostensible reason is so that City Staff can go through the entire document and edit any typos that might be contained in the document. Something that probably could have been accomplished as the document neared completion over the last year or so. To her this delay seems unfortunate. There have been a lot of delays along the way.

Staff also has some concerns about SB375 and AB32, fusty state laws out of the now widely discredited Arnold Schwarzenegger era dealing with greenhouse gases and, oddly, development. The claim being that we can somehow build our way out of global warming. Staff wishes to compare the work of the quite expensive consultants they hired and make certain it coincides with what the GPUSC included in their work. The stated concern here being that the updated General Plan coincides with state law. Of course, there is always the possibility that certain local agendas could be at work as well.

There is also the struggle with whatever they are calling the Green Committee these days. Apparently there are certain findings of this politically imposed outfit that some persons have pressured the GPUSC to incorporate in their work. But as Deb Sheridan pointed out last evening's final meeting, the Green Whatever never presented anything to the GPUSC, choosing instead to remain aloof from those proceedings. It would therefore not be ethical to include their remote musings in the GPUSC's work.

I'm certain that politics will play a role in these matters down the road. Along with many other General Plan matters as well. There is money to be made in selling off Sierra Madre's birthright, and as is usually the case greed will attempt to have its day. That has been a constant here for years.

But these are all issues that will have to be dealt with later. Right now it is important to note that the General Plan Update Steering Committee did an extraordinary job. The dedication and wisdom from all who served on this committee deserve a long loud round of applause. When the GPUSC went from five members up to nine nobody had more misgivings than I did. And I now have to admit that I was wrong. Everyone there rose above, and everyone put the interests of this community above everything else. These are good people, and they did right by us all.

And now we must do our part by helping to protect that hard work and idealism by making certain their hard fought representations of the will of the people of Sierra Madre survives the "process." A word that for once actually seems oddly appropriate. Making sausage is a process.

And what is the will of the people of Sierra Madre? What did they say they wanted when they filled out all of those surveys at the hugely successful Community Forum meetings held a few years back? Back on September 4 of 2011 we posted those results here on The Tattler. I think it is important that we take another look at them today. As MaryAnn MacGillivray often said when this all got rolling, the General Plan needs to be the voice of the people.

So here is what the people said, and what the General Plan Update Steering Committee faithfully worked to incorporate into what is the core governmental document of our community.

Sierra Madre General Plan Update Survey Results (Sep 4, 2011 click here):

City Services

1) Provide adequate water, waste water/sewer. storm drainage, electrical, and telecommunications systems (includes wireless and better cell service) to meet the demands of existing and new development.
Very Important: 200, Important: 66, Somewhat Important: 12, Not Important: 10

2) Promote fire safety.
Very Important: 183, Important: 84, Somewhat Important: 15, Not Important: 5

3) Manage traffic in all areas of Sierra Madre so that no traffic lights are required.
Very Important: 176, Important: 59, Somewhat Important: 34, Not Important: 19

4) Increase the amount of parks/open spaces and facilities.
Very Important: 85, Important: 62, Somewhat Important: 82, Not Important: 56

5) Maintain a high level of quality recreation, leisure and social programs and facilities.
Very Important: 107, Important: 105, Somewhat Important: 63, Not Important: 16

6) Provide Gateway Coach transportation routes throughout the City.
Very Important: 53, Important: 99, Somewhat Important: 86, Not Important: 50

7) Support, maintain and enhance art and cultural events.
Very Important: 48, Important: 53, Somewhat Important: 89, Not Important: 98

8) Enhance the Library's informational, recreational and cultural offerings.
Very Important: 92, Important: 113, Somewhat Important: 70, Not Important: 18

9) Ensure that Sierra Madre is a safe place to live, work and visit.
Very Important: 257, Important: 29, Somewhat Important 7, Not Important: 2


1) Preserve and protect historical structures, facilities and other locations.
Very Important: 159, Important: 97, Somewhat Important: 28, Not Important: 3

2) Preserve the identity, image and environment of the hillsides and canyon.
Very Important: 223, Important: 51, Somewhat Important: 13, Not Important: 3

3) Minimize water erosion and construct adequate flood control facilities.
Very Important: 189, Important: 82, Somewhat Important: 18, Not Important: 4

4) Preserve water resources, the night sky and other natural resources.
Very Important: 206, Important: 64, Somewhat Important: 17, Not Important: 3

5) Preserve and protect scenic views throughout the City.
Very Important: 193, Important: 69, Somewhat Important: 24, Not Important: 4

6) Preserve Wildlife Habitat.
Very Important: 191, Important: 55, Somewhat Important: 28, Not Important: 15

7) Preserve and protect existing trees and promote increasing the stock of trees in the City.
Very Important: 173, Important: 65, Somewhat Important: 39, Not Important: 11


1) Provide housing for all income levels.
Very Important: 39, Important: 51, Somewhat Important: 102, Not Important: 100

2) Require residential development to minimize adverse impacts on the neighborhood.
Very Important: 172, Important: 81, Somewhat Important: 17, Not Important: 13

3) Encourage a variety of quality commercial/retail and light manufacturing development.
Very Important: 97, Important: 76, Somewhat Important: 76, Not Important: 41

4) Ensure that new development provides adequate parking facilities.
Very Important: 97, Important: 115, Somewhat Important: 58, Not Important: 20

5) Require "greener" construction practices even if it means higher fees and construction costs.
Very Important: 81, Important: 82, Somewhat Important: 68, Not Important: 59

6) Develop better - define rules for home additions and remodels.
Very Important: 88, Important: 98, Somewhat Important: 71, Not Important: 27

7) Encourage mixed uses (houses and retail) in the downtown area.
Very Important: 45, Important: 70, Somewhat Important: 74, Not Important: 98

8) Ensure new residential developments maintain current levels of housing density and open spaces between homes.
Very Important: 189, Important: 67, Somewhat Important: 22, Not Important: 9

9) Retain the community's character of a small village atmosphere.
Very Important: 245, Important: 44, Somewhat Important: 6, Not Important: 3

Top 10 Concerns

1) Overdevelopment
2) Maintain small town character
3) Develop Skilled Nursing Center
4) Thank you
5) Enable builders
6) Protect the hillsides
7) Government interference
8) No mixed use development
9) Need a grocery store
10) Encourage downtown development

What do you hope Sierra Madre will be like in 20 years?

Upscale Housing & Restaurants: 1%
Good Public Schools & High School: 1%
Art and Culture: 2%
Vibrant Thriving Town: 5%
Green community, trees, hiking, water conservation: 7%
Retain the authentic unique small historic town atmosphere with no traffic lights: 84%

One more thing. Before the General Plan Update Steering Committee got too far along in this effort, they first established what they called their Vision & Guiding Principles. These are the ideals that sustained them through three and a half years of very hard volunteer work. As these results slowly move into the next few phases of this "process"we should all try and keep them in mind.

1.) Preserve and sustain Sierra Madre's distinct character as a historic small town nestled in the foothills, but within a major metropolitan area.

2.) Ensure that Sierra Madre is a safe vibrant place to live, work and visit by providing city services that match the needs of the community and promote community engagement.

3.) Protect and be responsible stewards of the neighboring San Gabriel Mountain wildlife, foothills' forest, open space, watershed and all other natural resources.

4.) Promote and develop a strong diversified local economy and a thriving downtown commons, consistent with the needs of the community.

5.) Ensure development is done in harmony with the neighborhood, while maintaining the character of the town and without unduly burdening existing city services and infrastructure or impacting the environment.

That is what our community is really about. These principles are also key to the survival of this community as we know it today. It is time we do our part.


  1. A huge thank you to all who labored so long and diligently to create our updated General Plan! It does seem, from reading the survey results, that the bulk of Sierra Madre residents just want to be left alone to enjoy their little town in the foothills. This means keeping state and federal government and their silly mandates out of Sierra Madre. This also means that we don't need any "experts" to tell us how to build anything that is "green" or "sustainable" (whatever that term means).

    1. The Downtown Investors Club has been at war with Sierra Madre for years. The assaults launched against Denise and the GPUSC over the last three plus years is a part of that.

    2. The DICs assault will come at the Planning Commission and the City Council.

    3. Their aim will be to turn this into a consultant document. They will have th full force of the political establishment behind them.

    4. That is what is so embarrassing for Elaine Aguilar. With the GPUSC declaring themselves done now she will have nobody to try and get to do the dirty work for her. If she wants Warner's housing element in there, she will have to do it herself.

    5. Precisely.

    6. A city manager cannot do that. A city council can.
      Once again we see too much power given to a council.

  2. I'd like to also thank Colin Braudrick for all his work on the General Plan Committee. Oh, wait, he quit part way through and didn't finish the work assigned to him. I guess he was pouting because of the election results last April.

    1. Leave Colin. The guy worked hard for this city for a long time, and then made the supreme sacrifice of running for the City Council. Lighten up. I didn't vote for him either, but show a little restraint.

    2. He quit the library board and left town too. Doesn't look like he was really attached to Sierra Madre.

  3. So you mean to tell me, just under 250 people decided the fate of Sierra Madre, California?

    What happened to voting residents involvement?

    I hope this is what is needed.

    1. I'd love it if those questions were put on the ballot. It would shut Buchanan, the Moran clan and the rest of the Unicorn Party up for good. People in this town do not want garbage get rich quick development. Take it to San Bernardino where they rode that jackass to bankruptcy.

    2. Yea, cause that strategy worked with the UUT vote last time.

    3. 7:22, new to town?
      There were constant opportunities over the last three and a half years to participate - and there will be constant opportunities to participate right until the final document is approved.
      You have had plenty of time to make your concerns known, and you still can.

    4. The General Plan Update committee reached out to the residents, businesses, and voters encouraging them to complete the questionnaire which was distributed and advertised to the community. Flyers were distributed to all postal customers and at various local events. If you didn't complete a questionnaire then I just don't know what to say...

    5. Many people CHOOSE not to participate.
      They had 4 years to speak up.
      There are still opportunities to come.

    6. Good point 9:31, but 7:22 is not really into open and clear discussion of relevant issues. More like a creeping around behind people's backs whisperer type. Wormtongue comes to mind.

  4. "What do you hope Sierra Madre will be like in 20 years?
    Good Public Schools & High School: 1%"


    1. People here are not into fantasy.

    2. it asked for what they'd hope for, not what they think is realistic.

    3. I would hope that "public schools" will be a thing of the past and we have a voucher system with great private schools, competing for top honors.
      This is what I would like to see for our children.

    4. I would hope that public schools have improved so that parents with vouchers would choose to spend them not in private schools but at the local public schools. Public schools for our children, for all children.

    5. That's essentially what charter schools are. How's that working out?

    6. Working out remarkably well in poor neighborhoods. Much higher rates of graduation than the public schools.

    7. People had one vote. Given the choice of stopping garbage development or resurrecting the PUSD, how would you vote?

    8. Agreed. The question was designed to elicit that response.

  5. Didn't the hired consultants check the general plan for problems with ABs and SBs?

    1. Consultants are slavish followers of power. As are the people who hire them.

  6. Better print off what is on-line because the final document will in no way resemble what Denise and GPUSS produced. It must really rankle Doyle, Buchanan, and the rest of the shadow council that they couldn't disassemble what they had put in place when the committee actually began their work. Congratulations, GPUSC! Fine work under adverse conditions.

    1. It will be interesting to see how the Mayor Pro Tem* comes down on this. Will he honor his slow growth past, or serve his new masters?

    2. Better yet will be how Nancy handles this. Politically she needs to thank and praise the committee for a job well done.
      But who can forget her "we can take you out" rampage?

    3. re 8:11 that document will be recognizable when the three city council hatchet men get done with it.

  7. Thanks to the GPUSC for listening to the residents, and putting our concerns first. You did a great job.

    1. Yes indeed, GPUSC did a great job! Thank you.

  8. 1. The hours and hours and hours that this GP update represents from the first 7 on the committee;
    2. Then the wrangling to add 5 more to reconfigure their effort (one of whom disappeared and two of whom did very little, two of whom were really productive)
    3. Plus the supposed folding in of green elements in the GP from the "green" committee,
    4. And then the great number of other volunteers who did research for the baseline data for the update that the paid consultant was clueless on how to gather in our town,
    5. The large gathering of citizens of two (at least) out reach meetings at the Recreation Center/surveys (tabulated, studied, included),
    6. "soon" the City legals give it a final, final, final for internal cohesion before forwarding it to
    7. The Planning Commission for Review who then forward the 2010- 2013 General Plan Update to
    8. The City Council for Adoption...
    Bravo for the GP Committee!

  9. The first committee had 5 members and 4 were added.

  10. I would like to thank all the community members that spent hundreds of hours volunteering to help the General Plan Steering Committee.
    Without your help and encouragement, we would not have been able to complete our task.

  11. wrong wrong wrong

    we need 250 or so condos built downtown because that is what a dozen "civic" leaders have been pushing for the last ten years

    like John Buchanan had advocated, the "lawyer" for SoCal Edison who once wanted to give away a city parking lot so a multi-story parking structure could be built for the 50 condos he was trying to make happen at the old Howies lot

    as long as we keep electing knuckleheads like Buchanan, Moran, Walsh, Harabuchanan and that ilk, we'll keep fighting a small group who don't care about the city - just development because it benefits them

  12. The Draft General Plan could have gone to the Planning Commission last fall when the General Plan Steering Committee gave it to the City. The Draft General Plan could go to the Planning Commission next month.
    Why is the City holding it back?

    Two reasons:
    1. The City is waiting for a new Planning Commission that is very pro development.
    2. The City will be adding a new section that will increase the density to 20 units an acre in the R-3 (apartment/multi family)zone. The current density is 13 units per acre.

  13. I am not into conspiracy theories but you may be right.

  14. If you want to know what's going on in Sierra Madre, follow the water.
    Doyle, Mosca, Buchanan championed the MWD pipe hook-up for "emergency use" only. Their critics said it was long term planning for over-development, to which D-M-B protested mightily. Not for development, they said.
    Now the developments in the hillsides and downtown have become so big, that the water will be gone.
    Guess that will be an "emergency use."

    1. Get ready for your water bonds rate hike.

  15. Off topic,but maybe not so much.San Bernardino is bankrupt and the city has proposed substantial reduction from Police and Fire Departments resulting in screams and howls of rage.The City has been very generous in the past but now the bountiful days are over and the battle begins.A portend perhaps for Sierra Madre!

    1. Taxmoney in the form of increased salaries and pensions was used in San Bernardino to buy the political loyalty of municipal employee unions. Is that happening here? You bet it is. Want to stop it before it happens here? Vote NO on the UUT extention in April 2014.

  16. Some of those new to SM politics or just new to town might not know what has happened here. If you want to understand the struggles a little better, walk on in to the library and take a look at the Downtown Specific Plan, the brainchild of the downtown investment club members, and the political party known as either the Civility Party, or more old school, the Dirts. You have to see this Four story Orange County Disneyfication to believe it. Also look at the tapes of the One Carter debacle. Consider the vile websites that erupted around the time of the push back on the Downtown Specific Plan, that was known as Measure V. It's easy if you don't know the history to think everything is fine, and everyone has good intentions.

  17. 2.5%.... what a joke!...this document is dead to me.

    1. I suspect there is a lot to you that is dead.

    2. I find it very odd that this article has drawn that negative commentor - and it does seem to be a one trick pony kind of poster.
      But what specifically is there to object to? It seems very likely that the critic has not even read the document, nor considered the variety of perspectives that are involved, and equally represented.

    3. Some people just hate.

    4. Not a lot to go on here, but I'm figuring 7:01 pm is referring to 2.5% of 10,000 residents which is roughly 250 and oddly enough the estimated number of responses to the questionnaire. 250 Responders who cared enough to respond. It may be dead to 7:01, but it represents passion for their/our community to me. And ultimately it's representative of the best of values that our residents hold dear.

  18. They deserve to celebrate. Job well done, beyond all frustration you did what you were asked to do! Many, many people in Sierra Madre will benefit from your efforts even though they will actually never know.


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